UNsponsored global pastoralist talks begin in Ethiopian bush

From the far reaches of the earth, over 300 pastoralists are meeting this week in the Ethiopian woodlands to exchange tips and lobby for change at a six-day event sponsored by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).Nomadic farmers from 19 countries, as far-reaching as Peru and Chad, will take up the key issues that are core to their productivity.“They’re meeting to discuss critical priorities that affect their livelihoods, including marketing of livestock, access to basic services and the ability to influence governments and manage conflicts,” OCHA spokesperson Vincent Lelei told the UN News Service on Thursday.In addition to fostering knowledge sharing, the meetings are meant to provide the pastoralists an outlet for positive change. “This meeting is about the future,” event organizer Patta Scott-Villiers from the Pastoralist Communication Initiative said at the opening of the meeting in Yabello yesterday. “This meeting is about bringing together knowledge from all the countries represented and working on where pastoralism can go if we all put our heads together.”During the last two days, the farmers will present their resolutions and action points for discussion with key decision-makers, including government ministers, financial donors and heads of UN agencies.“Pastoralists communities contribute significantly to both local households and national economies. They are efficient users of natural resources,” Mr. Lelei said. “They protect pastures and natural resources. They practice lifestyles that are productive and they are able to protect the natural environment,” he added.

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